Aston Villa co-owner and saviour Wes Edens has recently conducted a pretty in depth interview and one of the topics touched upon was the ‘Moneyball’ concept and I’m sure for some in the fanbase they are already hiding behind their sofa’s.
Villa rather spectacularly failed at this more statistical approach to recruitment back in the good old days of Tom Fox and Paddy Riley and we all know how well that went for us as we’re still battling to return to the Premier League following our Championship relegation.
It wasn’t a complete failure, we did identify the likes of Jordan Amavi and Idrissa Gana Gueye, but equally we can say Pierluigi Gollini and Jose Angel Crespo – there were mixed results, but that was always going to be the case when Tim Sherwood couldn’t work out which players he signed and had been tracking for over a decade and blame got shifted as things went wrong.
So there’s a natural scepticism when it comes this process as it’s still pretty new to the English game. Head coach Dean Smith knows it well though as it’s basically Brentford’s approach to recruitment, and given Eden’s comments with Interview.net he’s obviously a fan.
“You know I always tell people in our businesses great judgment, overrated, great information, underrated. Because truly if you have great information most of the decisions are pretty darn simple. Yeah and so I feel like in soccer they’ve got a long way to go in terms of analytics data. And so I feel like there’s a lot to be caught up to honestly and I believe in the end when you look there’s a number of NBA owners and U.S. sports owners that have done tremendously well (in football). You have Stan Kroenke at Arsenal, John Henry at Liverpool. Obviously they’ve got tremendous teams though and I’ve talked to both of them and others about their experiences. And I think that there are a lot more similarities than differences but there are some big differences for sure.”
“It’s not merely the data but I do think the foundation of it should be data driven and I think that that’s where we talk about underdogs and whatnot. It’s just that I have this very high motor to try to see things for what they are and that’s what the data allows you to do if you just apply it properly. But then you need good judgement at the end of course. But you know if it’s balanced by this underpinning of data and information you’re just likely to make much better decisions.”
It’s a sensible approach to lead a decision, but it’s about getting the right balance as statistics don’t tell the full story of a game, so they won’t tell the full story of how a player ‘may’ adjust and perform at a new club. But it should play its part when doing a full background check as it will provide an indication.
May will think pointing to Arsenal (Arsene Wenger anyone) and Liverpool as examples of how well it works is a little vague, as Virgil van Dijk was hardly an unknown addition.
But the full read is certainly interesting as we continue to learn about our new owners and what makes them tick.